When I was 12 years old, I started going to the mall with my friends. My dad noticed that I just couldn’t keep up with the other girls. My dad suggested I get a power wheelchair and I fought him on it. I told him I didn’t want to use a wheelchair because people would think I’m disabled. His response was, “Well, I’ve got news for you, kid. You are disabled.” I obviously knew I was disabled but thought getting a wheelchair would somehow make people think less of me. My dad told me that what other people think shouldn’t prevent me from getting the tools I need to live the life I want to live. So, I got a power chair from Quantum Rehab.
I’m so glad that my dad talked me into getting my power chair. Since then, I’ve had five power chairs that got me through high school, college, living in Ireland, working in Washington D.C., going to law school, litigating in Miami, starting a nonprofit, and so much more. I wouldn’t have been able to live my very active lifestyle without my power chair. It allows me to go long distances and up steep hills!
iLevel® Power Adjustable Seat Height
So, imagine my excitement a few years ago when I learned about iLevel®. iLevel is a power adjusted seat height system (PASH) that allows wheelchair users to access more of the world through height! Think about it. Legs don’t just provide people the ability to move back and forth. They also help to go up and down. When you sit, you’re at a lower height than when you stand. You’re able to reach more because of your ability to use your legs.
Wheelchair users often cannot use their legs to get more height. PASH allows wheelchair users to finally access areas that most people access regularly, such as higher shelves in the fridge or pantry and the stovetop. I think it’s really important that society understands the importance of being able to reach.
Could You Do These Tasks?
I want you to think about this for a minute. Think about all the things you do every day. Now, think about how you would do those tasks while sitting and not being able to reach. Think about whether you could make a simple pasta dish right now if you were sitting. Could you reach your stovetop? Could you fill a pot of water and bring it to your stove? Could you reach the knobs to turn on the burner? Could you reach the box of pasta from the cupboard you keep it in? Could you reach the jar of sauce? Could you comfortably see if the pot of water was boiling and pour pasta into the boiling water? Could you stir? Could you reach the bowls to put the pasta in when it’s done cooking? Could you safely lift the pot of boiling water off the stovetop and bring it to the sink and strain the pasta? Could you reach over the hot stovetop to turn the knob to shut off the burner? Could you do all these things while sitting? Could you do it without worrying about getting burned or breaking something? I can’t. Not without my iLevel.
Insurance Coverage of PASH
Right now, most insurance companies will not cover PASH technology because they do not think that it’s “necessary.” I literally cannot make spaghetti without my iLevel, much less do anything that requires reaching the upper 2/3 of my house. Yet, insurance companies don’t think it’s necessary. Because insurance companies don’t think it’s necessary, disabled people across the country are being prevented from accessing the tools they need to live the lives they want to live.
I believe PASH is necessary and wheelchair users should have access to this technology. I am proud to work with Quantum on a policy level to try to change this. And that’s why I post so many pictures of me living my life in my PASH wheelchair and encourage other people to do the same.
The Importance of Change
You see, policy change usually doesn’t happen unless there’s societal change. When society sees the issue and understands it, there is a better chance that policy will change. And when the policy changes, wheelchair users across the nation will benefit and FINALLY be able to reach the things that most people can reach (and take for granted), hundreds of times a day.
About Stephanie Woodward: Stephanie is a brand ambassador advisor for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.